Due to popular demand, I will delve into a post-season examination of the ups and downs of this recently ended, or maybe more appropriately, the soon to be ended Cyclocross season. Do remember you can still get all "hup-hup-ed" one more time this year, as there is one more Boulder Rez race coming up.
OK, OK, I know "popular demand" may be an overstatement, but for this particular blog-like operation, even ONE comment is definitely popular demand. Listen to the people, I say.
All right, this one was really all my fault. Yes, I was the one who bought a new set of wheels glued up with Tufo Cubus, JUST to have a set of mud tires after a couple of mud-baths last year. Didn't use them much this year. At least we had the New Belgium Cup. Was getting pretty sick of dust by then.
The Colorado Cross Cup
While probably a good start to a meaningful Colorado season series, and seemingly pretty successful at one of it's big goals of improving promotion "quality" in more races, This one just seemed to not be a big hit with the general racing populace. Scheduling was a bit strange, with many back to back cup races (2 cup races in one weekend), and almost as many races designated as Cup races as last year. I firmly do not believe that running Cup races after mid-December is going to go well, as I don't think the participation will justify the Cup status, just make the few people at the top of that points competition artificially extend their season.
Also the "Cup only" points for call-up was pretty much universally despised. Between most riders not knowing which races "counted" and riders finishing well in "NON-Cup" races never getting a call-up, it just brought more hard feelings than "buzz".
No Nationals for me
USAC making CX nationals available to only cat3 and up pushed me out of the party. Is it really the right thing to do? Yes, I fully agree that it was needed to decrease field sizes to manageable levels, and keep it fair for the actual jersey contenders, but I did not like it for 2 reasons. One, it was MASSIVELY cool to race there, and see how you faired against those who DID have actual shots at the Jersey. Two, it seems to be a turning point for a change in the "inclusiveness" of Cross. Getting too big for an "All-Comers" national championship race is a mixed bag in my mind. A qualifying points system is the only real solution, but with the USAC/ACA/OBRA mess, looks unlikely.
Oh, and I would point out that THIS crappy cat-4 did NOT get lapped last year......
The continuing growth of participation in Cross
125 Rider fields in the Beer-Drinking-Dads race is a great thing. 45-50 every week in the 45+ is great. While I don't see a reasonable set of changes to bring those 35+ cat 4 fields down to a more competitive and reasonable size, there sure could be worse problems to have for a sport. The "standard" race day schedule was pretty much destroyed by the HUGE influx of old guys in all the Masters categories, and will have to lead to some creative thinking for next year. Sharing a course for multiple groups is quickly becoming unworkable. Not enough daylight to spread out the demand and add groups. Don't be surprised to see a "2 races on one day" setup coming soon, IF the ACA can find enough officials to staff 2 venues every weekend.
The other upside of the rapid growth in cross vs. the stagnant numbers for road racing is that the ACA, and maybe even the USAC are seeing cross as a stand alone discipline now, not just a sideshow. Cross will now be getting more of the governing body resources and attention that it deserves.
Great new race venues
Westminster City Park - Brian at Boulder Racing has a classic in the making here. While FAR from a course I could do well on, it's a winner. My vote for "most desired to stick around" course.
Flatiron Crossing Mall - The move out of (but near to..) the bubble was a great move by Chris at DBC Events. While you could hear the whining from the drum circles and car-less hippies of the Republic as far away as the mall the race happened at, the venue is pure genius. I can't think of a better place to expose non bike geeks to what is really the only viable cycling discipline for non-riding spectators. Not only that, it was a crazy hard and crazy fun course to race on.
Honorable mention - Again to Chris & DBC for the Aspen Lodge race. Again, crazy hard, but finally getting there on the technical side. A blast to race on.
All in all, the quality of courses was way up pretty much across the board this year, just another good sign for the sport.
USGP and NACT events in Colorado
Getting a stop on BOTH national Cross Series tours in Colorado was a coup. Boulder Cup was a great show. The New Belgium Cup in Ft. Collins was a great race, but missed the mark as an "event" in a lot of ways. The venue out in the middle of a random field with no parking, Car-dealership ambiance, and a frightening lack of pre-race publicity & information flow dulled an otherwise great event. These issues led to about zero "appeal" for the non bike geeks out there. The venue was really sub-par for a National Calibre event. While the course was a good one to race on, I'm hoping they can find a more appropriate venue for next year (if they retain the USGP stop...)
And now, My special awards for the year.
The "Oh Yea" award
To the ACA for the timely passing of a "new" rule allowing them to honor other governing bodies suspensions and other sanctions. This could also be the "Chuck Coyle Memorial - Oh Yea" rule. At least it's on the books now.
The "Crawling out from under a Rock" award
Goes to The UCI & USAC for their intrepid efforts to keep all of the cyclocross community safe from the danger and pure evil that is lurking in any tire wider than 33 millimeters. I, for one, am glad that the old frog-dudes who live under their slimy rocks at the UCI come out into the light and continue to make such declarations. Without them, the anarchy that letting someone with a 2mm wider tire loose on the unsuspecting populace of the world would cause is just beyond comprehension. You have to give credit to the folks down in the Springs for them helping out on this with the "no one can ride these at Nationals oh wait now that you threw a few hundred dollars and hours of re-gluing time at your new narrow tires we want to help you save money so go ahead and use them if you are in one of those categories we don't care about anyway unless you are an elite where it really matters anyway" approach to rule making.
2mm. TWO F&#@!%g mm. God, you'd think that this would be self-sorting. Who would want to lug a 2.1" tire around on a cross bike, anyway. Thanks for your unwavering attention to the really pressing needs of the sport.
My Personal High point
From a personal perspective, my highlight had to be the first two races of the year. Mid-pack in the 45+ at the first "kiddie prison" race and 14th at the Boulder CX Series #1 race at Xilinx started me off thinking I was going to hit my goal of consistent top 20 finishes in the Beer-Drinking-Dads. Never again did I see that kind of result for the year. Be it me liking the heat, poor training, or phase of the moon, I really missed that kind of result for the remainder of my season, but those 2 races were great.
The Aspen Lodge Course, as well as 2 days of slithering around in the muck at the New Belgium Cup also are the other memorable races for my year.
Still, it keeps coming back to one of the best things about racing Cyclocross. no matter where you finish, top 10 or 54th place, it's always fun to race cross. It's what keeps me beating myself up, coming back, week after week. Once again, I get to use my favorite, and seemingly endless cry of "next year!"